I was turned on to this article by a short blurb in Trends, a publication of the American Animal Hospital Association, during my travels to a recent veterinary conference in Florida. Although it was written in 2004, the article–describing the life of Ernie, a suburban golden retriever who seems to have everything–is really timeless; veterinary professionals, shelters, and rescue groups see cases like Ernie’s every day. The type of neglect (Katz says “abuse,” and this may not be too strong a word) described in the story is eye opening:
His abusers aren’t lowlifes who mercilessly beat, starve, or tether animals. Quite the opposite: His owners are affluent, educated people who consider themselves humanistic and moral. But they’ve been cruel nonetheless, through their lack of responsibility, their neglect, their poor training, and their inattention.
Few dog owners–myself included–can say that they’ve never engaged in this sort of cruelty. From time to time, it’s unavoidable for most of us. But reading Katz’ article reminded me what an important commitment we’ve made by taking pets into our homes. And it reminded me of why we take hikes like this morning’s jaunt at Boyce Thompson Arboretum, and spend a few minutes in the yard three or four days a week doing clicker training with a seven-year-old dog (let alone the pup!), and help them learn rules and manners and generally get along with other dogs and people.
We all bring pets into our lives with good intentions. But it’s easy in our busy lives to forget what those intentions were at some points. Spend some time with your dog to remember why (s)he’s a part of your family—hit the dog park, work on “down-stays” in the yard, hike a trail in the Superstitions, enroll in a group obedience class, join an agility club, wrap up your Canine Good Citizen title, or visit us together at our Open House next weekend—you’ll be glad you did!